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The Company I Keep

My daughter, her mom and her grandmother
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Dr David, Editor / Publisher

Twenty years ago, I was visiting with my 13-year-old daughter and her mom, from whom, at the time, I had already been divorced for ten years. My ex-wife was complaining about her mother's and her sister's behavior at our daughter's bas mitzvah party. She exclaimed, "My mother is crazy, and my sister is out of her mind," prompting my daughter to looked up into my eyes and quickly looked away.

Even though daughter's face had been void of expression, I understood what she was communicating with that furtive glance. If, on one hand, your mother is crazy and on the other, your sister is nuts, what does that say about you, who are in the middle?

I do realize that in telling you about the weirdness of my friends, I am implicating myself. But I've got to get it off my chest.

I have a friend, 22 years younger than me, who I met 22 years ago, when he was just 22. Everyone calls him Z. We saw each other infrequently up north, from where I departed ten years ago, and only very recently began speaking on the phone. I guess I made a strong impression on him. Only recently has he returned the favor.

Z is a good talker. Sometimes I put him on speakerphone and carry on with some non-intellectual activity that needs doing. It's better than Youtube. Other times I take the lead, or at least am much more participatory in the conversation.

Z moved to Israel when he was 17. He spent three years there, excelling in religious studies at yeshiva and one on one with great scholars. He learned Hebrew, of course, and also taught himself ancient Aramaic, the language of the Talmud. Then he learned the Talmud, with its many commentaries, going through it three times in one year. This is an amazing achievement, because the Talmud has 63 tractates and is over 6200 pages long. It's the size of, and much more dense than, the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Other students would glance over at him in the study hall and whisper to each other, "He might be the messiah." This was not only because of his learning and comportment, but because of his lineage. The messiah (I won't say "according to the Jews" because the idea of the messiah is only Jewish) is from the House of David, patrilineally, and so is Z. (The paternity of the Nazarene is problematic in this regard.) More than this, Z is from a particular family line reputed by more recent rabbinic tradition to be that from which the messiah will issue. In fact, Z believes that he is the messiah.

I know that I lost a lot of you right there, but stay with me. According to Z, it's no fun being the messiah. In fact, it's a battle. The war is between, on one side, the clown show of modern culture, with its simulated reality: artificial intelligence, algorithms, social media, celebrity culture, obsession with luxury, consumerism, orthodox religion; and, on the other side, a genuine appreciation of the wonders of unadulterated consciousness and the magic of coming together. It's like Harry Potter meets Lord of the Rings meets The Matrix meets Star Wars (the first trilogy), and there is no guarantee who is going to win. But sadly for us, judging from the state of the world, so far the messiah is losing.


Z
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I have another friend, who, like Z, has an obsessively rich inner world. Aaron is a scientist, he sees the world as an exquisite biological display. Atheistic, he yet has a worshipful attitude towards nature. Like Z, Aaron sees the world at war. Put simply, we rapacious descendants of monkeys, having only recently gained mastery over nature, are rapidly destroying the ecosystems that allow us to live, at least, to live with any joy and dignity. Humans have been struggling against nature: the cold, the forest, the dark..., for so long that we don't know how to stop fighting now that we have achieved victory in the conflict. I'm sure he wouldn't, but you could say that Aaron is a biological messiah. This in the sense, as Z insists, that the messiah is the one who is showing the way that we all need to go. As with Z, there are no messianic tricks up Aaron's sleeve, no super-powers, no miracles. As with Z, Aaron's saving of the world requires a communal cooperation that is in very short supply.

Aaron has written his own Talmudic opus, a dense trilogy of books, The Perfume of Life. This master work is a complicated cosmology of life's primary language, perfumes, the world's most ancient medium of communication. Way older than sight or hearing, our olfactory sense tells the oldest story. Way older than sight or hearing, our olfactory sense tells the oldest story. Aaron's trilogy weaves perfumes (don't call them "scents") with the history of humanity, in all its ugliness. Like Z, Aaron's is a grand mission, the grandest. His environmentalism is an epic conflict on which everything rest. Like Z's, his mission also depends on clearing our consciousness and coming together. Again, there is no guarantee about who the winner will be. Here too, the messiah, so far, is losing.

Aaron is a resident of San Miguel. He offers perfume salons and something he calls Domingos de Destilación / Sunday Distillations, where we sit around a large glass retort while it extracts essential oils. Lokkal published its first excerpt of Aaron's Perfume of Life, The Perfume of Rosemary. It's a dense but humorous piece, very human, a great glimpse into a great, sensitive mind.

Some years ago, I bought the web domain digitalmessiah.org, figuring that when the messiah comes, he might need a website. Z, following Jewish tradition, figures it a little differently. According to Z and the rabbis, the messiah is here in every generation. The critical point being that the generation needs to do the work that allows for his revelation. According to Z, this way of thinking eliminates the childish and ultimately counterproductive idea of God as a Big Daddy, who will step in and make everything ok. The messianic redemption, which is synonymous with a just world, is something we must work toward, at least a certain critical mass of us.

I'm doing my part. With Aaron on my one hand and Z on my other, you might have already guessed that I have my own messianic ideation. I do.

I believe that localism, strong local communities, is the answer to most of the social problems we face today. A stronger local economy floats all boats. Better neighborhoods make healthier families and individuals. A sense of belonging counters mental/emotional illness.

Currently, less than 5% of all musicians make more than 95% of all online music sales. This hyper-concentration of wealth is the result of all information going through one filter; think Facebook or Amazon. Multiple decentralized filters of information prevent one or a few individuals (e.g. Zuckerberg and Bezos) from hoarding all the wealth.

My Lokkal project, a digital town square for towns and cities around the world, creates those multiple local filters. Lokkal lowers the existing steep, narrow pinnacle of success into a broader height that more of us can enjoy. (Does anyone really need 160 billion dollars?)

Starting here in San Miguel, Lokkal builds local community. And, it is easy to replicate in towns and cities around the world. Localism resists the flattening, narrowing, disempowering forces of globalism. That's the epic battle I'm fighting.

I offer Lokkal as a calmer alternative to the razzle-dazzle of commercial internet, like the World Wide Web was supposed to be. Think of it like Public Television or the public library or a public utility. All profits will be invested in or donated to the local community.

You can help. Join Lokkal and start adding content. (Go to www.lokkal.com -> click Start -> select Register -> respond to the email -> make a page -> upload photos and text) It's effective, free publicity for you or your favorite restaurant, bar, store, stylist... Make a page about your walk or your night out.

The problems we face may be very complicated, but their solutions might be very simple. It really does start with you joining and participating in the "Internet del Pueblo," the town's or the people's internet. If you want to change the world, San Miguel de Allende is a good place to start.

When we come together, we draw others into orbit. The increasing density of our center of community, creates more gravity, pulling yet more community into it. The process continues until the center becomes impossibly dense and there is a transformation. Just as in the birth of a star, things go nuclear, changing into plasma. In our case, a different type of consciousness is born. That's my messianism.

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Dr David and his merry band believe that the new expanded Lokkal will change the world, city by city.

events @ sanmiguelevents.com

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